So, you want to be a barrister or a solicitor but you are strapped for cash and you are not keen on taking out a bank loan? Join about 90 per cent of those pursuing a career in the legal field. You applied for a scholarship from an Inn of Court and were unsuccessful? There are plenty more like you out there. I am one of them.
Rather than getting down about not getting the money from an Inn of Court or from a set of chambers, I decided to focus almost immediately on what I could do to make myself stand out from the thousands of other students in my situation and applying for scholarships. I had done the usual that is expected of a prospective bar student: graduated with a high 2:1, been on the external mooting team and progressed to national finals, been involved with societies and charities, won awards… the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, this is all now as standard as gaining a minimum of a 2:1. I did not want to pursue the bar course without gaining a scholarship as I figure that it would help me out in pupillage applications to be able to say that I have previously sat in front of a panel of barristers and they have decided I am worth investing in. Therefore, instead of racking up a further £20,000 of debt to complete the bar course, I decided to see what other options there were to improve my CV. I have numerous academic achievements and I have gained many mini-pupillages, yet I lacked real advocacy work. My first thought was to offer myself up to do small scale employment tribunals, leasehold valuation tribunals and the like. However, it soon became clear to me that this would not make me stand out. I decided that being fluent in a second language would help me.
I started to search for postgraduate courses abroad, and quite by chance fell upon an LLM in International Protection of Human Rights offered by Universidad de Alcalá in Madrid, Spain. I found that course fees were cheaper, which was a bonus, and that they offered four-month internships with human rights bodies, including the UN, the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. When I weighed up my options, I decided I would rather get myself £5000 – £10,000 in debt than £20,000. The benefits of this course were too great to ignore; it would allow me to travel a little – something I have always wanted to do – whilst still keeping my time dedicated to the law. It would allow me to become fluent in Spanish. I would have an internship with a body that it is very unlikely that anyone else will have gained experience with; the possibility of moving to The Hague could mean that I pick up business level knowledge of French and Dutch. Of course, I would also gain a further qualification, an LLM. Based on this knowledge and with the application deadline fast approaching, I decided to apply.
Naomi Barnes graduated with a strong upper second-class law degree from Birmingham City University. She has decided to enhance her CV by completing an LLM in Madrid, Spain. She has a keen interest in mooting and writing, and wishes to specialise as a barrister in health related issues, in particular, the human rights issues concerning genetic engineering.